Gujarat High Court has framed issues in plea against Congress leader Ahmed Patel in relation to alleged malpractices committed during his 2017 Rajya Sabha elections.
We had reported, earlier this month, that Supreme Court has directed Gujarat High Court to initiate a probe against Patel, taking former Congress leader Balwantsinh Rajput’s election plea as grounds. An election petition was filed by Balwantsinh Rajput in Gujarat High court challenging Elections Commission’s decision of invalidating of two votes, which had led to Patel’s victory and Rajput’s defeat in Gujarat Rajya Sabha election.
Before Rajya Sabha elections of 2017, the total strength of Gujarat Congress MLAs had reduced from 57 to 52, after many MLAs had defected to BJP, including Balwantsinh. During polling, Congress had appealed to invalidate votes of its two MLAs, citing a technical issue claiming two Congress MLAs, Bholabhai Gohil and Raghavji Patel, did not show their vote to Congress polling agent. A similar request was also sent by BJP to EC appealing to invalidate votes of two Congress MLAs, Shailesh Parmar, also the Chief Whip of the party, and Mitesh Garasia. While the appeal of Congress was accepted, the request of BJP was denied by EC. The invalidation of two votes, made the victory of Ahmed Patel easier, as it brought down the winning number from 45 to 44.
In April last year, the court dismissed Patel’s plea demanding the dismissal of Rajput’s election petition. Rajput had also accused Patel of indulging in malpractices. Ahmed Patel then approached the Supreme Court, where the court upheld the High Court’s order and directed it to initiate a probe against Patel.
According to reports, High Court has framed six issues against Ahmed Patel. Among them, the biggest is whether Ahmed Patel indulged in corruption and affected the outcome of polling. The issues also include whether the decision to invalidate votes of Bholabhai Gohil and Raghavji Patel was wrong and whether votes of Shailesh Parmar and Mitesh Garasia, were actually invalid. One of the issues also challenges EC, whether its actions were “being violative of the principles of natural justice, without any authority of law”.
The court will hear the case again on January 18. After framing of issues against Ahmed Patel, the Congress loyalist is now surrounded by several cases alleging his involvement in corruption and election malpractices. Agencies are already probing his involvement in the Sandesara group fraud, and also in the AgustaWestland corruption scandal, in which the extradited middleman Christian Micheal has allegedly identified his role.